Why I don’t watermark

The other day Seth Godin posted on his blog about Assuming goodwill. What he’s written explains precisely why I don’t watermark my auditions or require a contract from every new client. Begin with trust. Or begin with mistrust. It’s just about impossible to straddle that divide. I would rather assume trust. And in now, 28 years of doing voiceovers professionally, I can still count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I’ve been burned by a client. With fingers to spare.


  1. Agreed Bob! Same experience!

    Comment by Dave White — March 12, 2011 @ 4:50 pm

  2. Bob,
    I have always felt a bit awkward when some VOs have looked at me askance & in wide-eyed amazement (or shook their heads with a “tsk-tsk” on their lips) when I “admitted” that I don’t watermark or require a contract from every new client.

    I’m glad I’m in good company. Thanks for that. 🙂



    Comment by Liz de Nesnera-Bilingual English/French VO — March 12, 2011 @ 5:05 pm

  3. Agree! Even though it looks like I just got burnt,I can count the times that has happened on one hand after 20+ years. The longest VO production I was in spanned 12 years – none of us had contracts (that was Europe, don’t know how it would be here).
    Since working out of my own studio in the online environment, there have been adjustments and a learning curve.
    I would still begin with trust any day – the alternative is too strenuous.

    Comment by Linda Joy — March 12, 2011 @ 10:58 pm

  4. Me too! Exactly the same experience. Thanks!

    Comment by Rachel Fulginiti — March 13, 2011 @ 2:29 pm

  5. I agree, Bob. I see the issue from both sides of the desk through my day job as Creative director at an ad firm. It’s one less thing I have to explain to a client … “the finished version won’t have beeps .. or whispers … etc.” And occasionally, if the client really likes the read, all I have to do is ask for the higher quality version of the file. Does stealing happen? I’m sure it does. Right now, when I submit an audition I don’t want anything to distract from the performance. If I ever get burned … I may change my song, but for now, I like Seth’s approach.

    Comment by Ed Hunter — March 13, 2011 @ 8:51 pm

  6. Bob, with respect, you can count on one hand the times you are AWARE of being ripped off.

    Watermarking doesn’t have to be intrusive. You can leave out an important word, satisfying the goal of giving the client a “clean” file and also protecting yourself.

    This security measure is not just for your benefit. If the marketplace sites get a reputation for being places where everyone works but few get paid, they will go under – or become haunts of the desperate only.

    I watermark selectively, based on how many red flags I see in the job announcement. If the client is offended by the fact that “trust” is, by definition, something that is *earned,* there isn’t much I can do about that.

    Comment by Dan Popp — March 14, 2011 @ 8:37 am

  7. Dan,

    True enough, but I have a pretty high level of confidence that I’m aware of just about every time I’ve actually been ripped off, because I don’t audition when there are red flags flying. I’m concentrating my efforts on building relationships with people who want to work with me. Trust is a crucial element in that process.

    My best to you and thank you for your always cogent comments.

    Be well,

    Comment by Bob — March 14, 2011 @ 8:15 pm

  8. Bob,
    That’s a good point. We all have a self-selection process (I hope) when it comes to these jobs. This whole wide open internet marketplace concept is still in its infancy; it will be interesting to see whether it becomes more trusting/trustworthy or less, over time. All the best, my friend.

    Comment by Dan Popp — March 14, 2011 @ 8:30 pm

  9. Takes some real courage to do that, I’d say.. but I like your point about trust. It’s sort of amazing to me how we don’t assume goodwill in our everyday lives anymore. We all like to think ourselves trustworthy – and yet, when we walk down the street at night, for example, we are leery of everyone we pass. We even do this as children – assume danger, assume that people are out to get us.

    Anyways, I wish you all the best as you continue to be watermark free!

    Comment by Phil — March 17, 2011 @ 3:33 pm

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